Saturday 1st October 2011
A Circuit Of Barbon Low Fell – approx 8.00 miles
Ordnance Survey Explorer OL2 – Yorkshire Dales Southern & Western Areas
Barbon – Pencil Brow – Barbondale – Blindbeck Bridge – Bullpot Farm – Gale Garth – Brownthwaite Pike – Fell Road – Fellfoot Road – Langthwaite – Fell Garth – Whelprigg – Low Bank House - Barbon
Barbon: Pub, Shop, Accommodation
Sunny and warm at first, hot and hazy later.
We got out of the car, stretching expansively to rid ourselves of the kinks and cricks accumulated during the long drive north. It was still quite early, but here we were – “up north” – on a warm, sunny morning with a nice little walk to look forward to and all day to do it in.
For those who don’t know it, Barbon is a small, neat village situated in the Lune Valley, slightly to the west of the Yorkshire Dales National Park boundary. But although technically outside the National Park, there is no mistaking the quality of the surrounding hills – to the north sits the massive bulk of Middleton Fell with the Howgills beyond, while barely a half dozen miles east lies Whernside, highest of all the summits in the Yorkshire Dales – and Barbondale cuts a dramatic NE/SW slash through the thick of them.
Crossing the cattle grid on the track out of the village, it felt good to be back in this neck of the woods. It’d been far too long since our last visit – some four months, if memory serves me correctly – something that we were keen to rectify. Under normal circumstances we wouldn’t head up here for just a weekend; the time it takes and the cost of fuel being just two of the reasons why not. But we really needed to do this – to walk these beautiful hills again and to catch up with friends – and the promise of a decent forecast had tipped the balance in our favour. Naughty weather!
After a short stretch through parkland, we struck off east on a clear path through the woods with the rushing sound of Barbon Beck down to our right. Despite the recent warm, dry weather here, under the trees, there were still some wet patches to be negotiated.
Exiting the woods, we found ourselves on a track that contoured the lower slopes of steep-sided Middleton Fell. We made our way towards the footbridge that crosses the beck near Blindbeck Bridge before doubling back on ourselves along the road.
After a short distance we picked up a bridle path heading southwards towards Hoggs Hill that followed the stream dividing Barbon Low Fell from Barbon High Fell. The climb was not steep, but the path rose quickly out of the valley and views began to open up all round. Soon the tops of the surrounding fells came within our sight.
Bullpot Farm inhabits a surprisingly remote spot, ringed as it is by high tops – Barbon High Fell, Casterton Fell, Leck Fell, Gragareth, Great Coum and Crag Hill. We gazed longingly at them before turning away – we must save those for another day.
Today our route followed the road in a southwesterly direction, bringing us to a gateway on the right near Gale Garth that opened on to Access Land. A clear track wound along the side of the hill, rising gently to reach a second gate. We have been here in winter when the bottom of this gate is frozen solid into sheet ice – not a worry today.
Beyond this we left the track in favour of a slightly higher route aiming for the minor summit of Brownthwaite Pike, a small protuberance with an elaborate summit cairn and an airy position overlooking the Lune Valley, where we stopped for lunch.
By now, the temperature was soaring. Fortunately a strong, cooling breeze made it more bearable, but we were careful to slap on hats and sunscreen as these were perfect conditions for unexpected sunburn – and this in October! With a fine view over the valley to Kirby Lonsdale and beyond, it was a perfect place for a rest.
Moving on, we rejoined the main track and followed an arrow-straight path to reach Fell Road where we turned downhill. Our way back was a lower level route across the fields. From Fellfoot Road – a rough track between drystone walls – we entered a network of field paths that linked a succession of houses and farmsteads. Near one of these we were accosted by a friendly local.
Continuing in a generally northerly direction, we passed through parkland belonging to the grand house at Whelprigg and soon saw Barbon ahead of us. Before long we were back in the village, looking forward to a well-earned cup of tea and a piece of cake.
At around 8 miles, this walk is not much more than a good half-day in terms of distance. But in terms of variety and views it has a lot to offer – narrow dale, wild fell, gentle valley and more – and provides a satisfying snapshot of the best this area has to offer.